9 Significant Historical Sites of the American Civil War

From 1861 to 1865 this iconic battle of North versus South waged on to determine the fate of slavery in the United States of America. This battle for civil rights and freedom was a defining moment in our nation’s history and marked the abolition of slavery and the preservation of the United States as one indivisible nation. The Civil War remains today as the deadliest war in American history, with approximately 620,000 military , not to mention the undetermined civilian casualties as a result of the relentless battles. From Gettysburg to Andersonville to Richmond, many of the historic sites are preserved and can still be visited today. Here are a few we recommend any history buff check out:

9. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park -Appomattox, Virginia

Among the preserved and reconstructed buildings at this national historic park is the McLean House. This important building is where General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederacy to Union commander Ulysses S. Grant on April 9th, 1865, effectively ending the Civil War. Today the park is home to many original artifacts tied to the events which occurred here, including the pencil used by General Lee to make corrections to the terms of surrender. The park’s visitor center is open daily from 8:30am – 5:00pm and admission is $10 per vehicle.

Mclean House

8. Shiloh National Military Park -Shiloh, Tennessee

Shiloh National Military Park preserves the battlefields of Shiloh and Corinth in southern Tennessee and Mississippi. The Battle of Shiloah was one of the first major Civil War battles in the south and resulted in nearly 24,000 soldiers killed, wounded or missing. After this battle the Union troops took the railroad junction at Corinth which is why the sights of both battlefields are preserved within this National Park designation. Among the attractions of these historic sites are the Shiloah National Cemetery, the Confederate Memorial in Shiloah Park, Siloah Indian Mounds and the Sunken Road.

Shiloh National Military Park

7. Richmond National Battlefield Park -Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia played an integral part of the Civil War, having served as the capital of the Confederate States of America during this time. As a result, there are numerous sites of historical significance to be found throughout the city and surrounding counties. Richmond National Battlefield Park includes 13 distinct sites or units, each commemorating an important event or location of the American Civil War. Among these sites are Fort Harrison, Cold Harbor, the defensive battery of Drewry’s Bluff and the famous Tredegar Iron Works, now home to the park’s main visitor center.

"Pattern building, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia" by Morgan Riley - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Pattern building, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia” by Morgan RileyOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

6. Antietam National Battlefield -Sharpsburg, Maryland

On September 17, 1862 the Battle of Antietam was fought at the foothills of the Appalachians along Antietam Creek in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This was a significant battle as it marked the end of General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North during the Civil War. Today, the area and its historic sites have been preserved as a National Park and included on the National Register of Historic Places. Each year over 330,00 people visit the park which includes such attractions as a visitor center, National Cemetery, Maryland Monument and the Pry House Field Hospital Museum.

Antietam National Battlefield

5. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park -Fredericksburg, Virginia

This Civil War site in Virginia gives you a 4 in 1 experience as this National Military Park covers 4 important battle sites of the Civil War; the Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of the Wilderness, and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The park includes 5 preserved structures open to the public (one of which is the location where Stonewall Jackson died of injuries sustained during the Battle of Chancellorsville) and at over 8374 acres, Fredericksburg is the second largest military park in the world.

Confederate Cemetery, Fredericksburg VA

4. Andersonville National Historic Site -Andersonville, Georgia

When we think of POW camps, our minds tend to lean more to Europe and the camps of WWII, long before this however there were POW camps right here in America. Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia preserves the site of Camp Sumter, also known as Andersonville Prison which was a Confederate POW camp during the Civil War. The site is open to the public and includes a National Cemetery, prisoner-of-war museum, and remains of the camp itself. Visit this site to pay your respects to the over 13,000 men that died here as a result of the unlivable conditions; a somber reminder of the horrors of war camps.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

3. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park -Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia/Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

This military park encompasses two distinct locations which were the sites of two significant Civil War battles;  the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia and the Chattanooga Campaign at Lookout Mountain, eastern Tennessee. The park consists of four main areas: Chickamauga Battlefield, Missionary Ridge, Lookout Mountain Battlefield and Point Park and Moccasin Bend. These parks preserve and recount the long and hard-fought battle of the Chattanooga Campaign; the power struggle of North vs South for domination and control of this “Gateway to the Deep South”.

Lookout Mountain  Chattanooga

2. Fort Sumter National Monument -Charleston, South Carolina

Fort Sumter is credited as being the location where the American Civil War really began, when on April 12, 1861 Confederate artillery opened fire on this Charleston Harbor fort. While there are several sites associated with Fort Sumter that are accessible by land, including the visitor center, visiting the fort itself will require transportation by boat as the fort sits in Charleston Harbor. Visitors can either take the public boat tours operated by Fort Sumter Tours at a cost of $19 for adults and $12 for children, or if you have your own boat, there is no admission to visit Fort Sumter on your own.

Fort Sumter National Monument -Charleston

1. Gettysburg National Military Park -Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It’s no accident that the site of the most notorious battle of the American Civil War comes in as the number one historical Civil War site to visit in America. The Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 was the bloodiest of the entire Civil War with an estimated 46,000-51,000 casualties from both sides. The result of this battle was a Union win, which ended Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North. The significance of this battle was such that it spawned President Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address which honored the fallen soldiers of this bloody clash. Today, the public can appreciate the significance of Gettysburg with a visit to the visitors center, the Soldier’s National Cemetery or David Wills House.

Gettysburg National Military Park

10 Significant World War II Sites to Visit in Germany

If you’re a World War II aficionado or history buff in general, there’s no other trip quite like seeing the sights left behind by the Third Reich and Nazi Germany. Some were bombed into obsolescence, others were destroyed to cover over the reminder of the atrocities of war, but many significant spots remain accessible to the public today. Here are 10 historically significant WWII sites to see in Germany:

1. Vorbunker/Führerbunker -Berlin

Vorbunker and Führerbunker were once the places where Adolf Hitler took shelter and eventually lived. The elaborate underground concrete bunker complex was designed to be a temporary air-raid shelter for Hitler, his family and his guards. While the site has been redeveloped into the current residential housing that stands today, this remains an important place of WWII significance as it was in the Führerbunker that Hitler committed suicide. Today a commemorative sign can be seen explaining the layout and significance of the bunker complex.

"Place Of Hitler Bunker 2007" by I, Zvucini. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Place Of Hitler Bunker 2007” by I, Zvucini. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

2. Dachau Memorial and Museum -Dachau

Dachau was the first of many Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany and was designed to hold political prisoners from Germany and Austria as well as Jewish prisoners. It was also open the longest, from March 1933 to April 1945 spanning nearly all 12 years of the Nazi regime. Today the site of the former concentration camp is home to a memorial as well as a museum and can be visited by the public.

Dachau

3. Nazi Party Rally Grounds -Nuremberg

The rally grounds of the Nazi party covered about 11 square kilometers in Nuremberg’s southeast and were the site of six Nazi rallies between 1933-1938. While not all of the historic buildings remain, many are preserved and can be visited by the public as the entire site is now a memorial.

STRINGER Image / Shutterstock.com
STRINGER Image / Shutterstock.com

4. Holocaust Memorial -Berlin

This 4.7 acre site in Berlin was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold and serves as a tribute to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs known as ‘stelae’ and includes a Place of Information on the site’s eastern edge which lists the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.

Noppasin / Shutterstock.com
Noppasin / Shutterstock.com

5. St. Nicholas’ Church -Hamburg

This Gothic Revival church was once the tallest building in the world from 1874-1876 and played an important role in WWII. During the extensive air raids on the city of Hamburg, the church tower served as a goal and visual orientation marker for the Allied Air Forces. Unfortunately, on July 28, 1943 the church was severely damaged by bombing and was reduced to the only remaining tower which can still be seen today.

jorisvo / Shutterstock.com
jorisvo / Shutterstock.com

6. Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest) – Obersalzberg

The Kehlsteinhaus or ‘Eagle’s Nest’ as it’s known in English speaking countries is a Third Reich-area complex that was given to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday as a retreat to entertain friends and guests. The Kehlsteinhaus sits on a rocky outcrop known as Obersalzberg near the town of Berchtesgaden.  Today the Eagle’s Next can still be visited by the public as it houses a restaurant, beer garden and tourist site.

Kehlsteinhaus Eagle's Nest

7. Colditz Castle -Colditz

Colditz is a Renaissance castle located in Germany’s Saxony state. During WWII the castle was converted and used as a high security prisoner-of-war camp for officers who were particularly dangerous or were regarded as escape risks. The German’s believed the castle’s location on a rocky outcrop above the River Mulde made it an excellent spot for a high security prison, however Colditz POW camp had one of the highest records of successful escape attempts during WWII.

Colditz Castle

8. Mittelbau-Dora Memorial -Nordhausen

Mittelbau-Dora was a WWII Nazi concentration camp located near Nordhausen in the German state of Thuringia. This camp was notorious for its extreme cruelty towards prisoners and roughly 1 in 3 of the 60,000 prisoners sent here did not survive. Today the site is home to a memorial and history museum and serves as a place of mourning and commemoration of the victims of this concentration camp.

Photo by: Buchewald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation

Photo by: Buchewald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation

9. Soviet War Memorial -Berlin

The Soviet War Memorial is located in Berlin’s Treptower Park and was build to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who fell during the Battle of Berlin in 1945. The main feature of the memorial is a 12-m tall statue of a Soviet soldier with a sword holding a German child, standing over a broken swastika. The central area before the monument is lined with 16 stone sarcophagi, one for each of the 16 Soviet Republics. Each of the sarcophagi are adorned with carvings of military scenes and quotations from Joseph Stalin in both Russian and German languages.

Soviet War Memorial -Berlin

10. Besseringen B-Werk -Merzig

The Besseringen B-Werk is the only completely preserved fortification bunker located in the Siegfried Line; a 630 kilometer defensive system built between 19 and featured more than 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank traps. 32 bunkers in the Seigfried Line were built to construction standards or thickness ‘B’ hence the term B-Werk. Post-war, the site was used as a rubbish dump but it was restored and opened in 2005 as a museum which can be visited by the public today.

"Besseringen Eingangshof" by AllX - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
Besseringen Eingangshof” by AllXOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Like this? Check out 15 Must See World War II Sites in Europe

15 Must See World War II Sites in Europe

For those who are constantly glued to the World War II documentaries on the History Channel and have read countless books and articles about Allied tactics and strategic movements on the European fronts, a visit to Europe is the next step in your historical education. Personally seeing and physically standing on the many sites that were significant to that time will provide an unparalleled perspective and insight into the facts you already know about the war, as well as offer new information that is sometimes hard to come by from secondary sources. So for all the history buffs out there, here are 15 sites significant to the Second World War that, ranging from inspirational to overwhelming, are worth visiting in Europe:

15. Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, Germany

This work camp just outside of Berlin is found about three km from the location of the first ever Nazi concentration camp known as Oranienburg (now destroyed). The camp became the center of Nazi operations and is now a museum detailing the life of the inhabitants, both officers and detainees in a number of exhibits. Visitors can also see the special exhibition dedicated to the Oranienburg camp found in the museum’s permanent exhibit, and walk the ground of the camp for an incomparable lesson in the severity of the Nazi aggression.

Sachenhausen Concentration Camp, Germany

14. Arnhem Bridge, Netherlands

This bridge became well known after the strategic operation known as Operation Market Garden, whereby the Arnhem Bridge was the last in a string of strategic points targeted for takeover by the Allied forces. Successful up until that point, the Allies were unable to capture the bridge in the September 1944 Battle of Arnhem, an event that later became the subject of several books and the Hollywood film “A Bridge Too Far.” Surviving the September battle, the bridge was destroyed by Allied troops in October of the same year to help curb the transport of German supplies. In 1949 the bridge was rebuilt in the same style, and in 1977, renamed “The John Frostburg” in honor of the British commander that defended it in the September battle.

Arnhem Bridge, Netherlands

13. Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, Krakow, Poland

As many who have read the Thomas Keneally’s novel “Schindler’s List” or seen the Spielberg movie of the same name know, Oskar Schindler was a Nazi Party member who saved hundreds of Jewish lives through political bribery and Jewish employment at his enamel and munitions factories. The administrative building of the enamel factory still stands today, and houses the Krakow Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow, which is mainly devoted to the Party member and the lives of “his Jews.” This museum is must-see for anyone who wants to learn more about the life of a man now largely regarded as a hero.

Agnes Kantaruk / Shutterstock.com
Agnes Kantaruk / Shutterstock.com

12. Humboldthain Flak Tower, Germany

Originally constructed as a solution to air-strike vulnerability, German Flak Towers were domineering concrete complexes that sheltered anti-aircraft guns and protected ammunition from falling bombs. The towers operated in pairs, one a gun tower (Gefechsturm or G tower) and the other a command tower (Leitturn or L tower). Their heavily reinforced structure also served as bomb shelters for civilians as well as an extremely effective defensive center, with a radar dish that could detect bombers from over 50 miles away, eight 128-mm cannons with a firing capacity of 48 shells per minute and a number of other smaller cannons scattered around the tower. Many of the towers have since been destroyed or converted, but the one remaining in Berlin is open to visitors.

Photo by: itineri.de via Flickr

11. Vel D’Hiv Monument, France

Though the actual building of the Velodrome d’Hiver (indoor cycling track) was destroyed and replaced by government buildings, visitors can still stand on the spot, commemorated by a plaque, where in July of 1942, Jewish families in France were rounded up by the French police and forcibly herded into the Velodrome. It is there that over 13,000 citizens waited in deplorable conditions (without food, water or washroom facilities) for days before being dispersed among various concentration camps. A memorial to the victims was erected in the city in 1993, with the French Government issuing a public apology at a memorial service at the site in 1995.

Photo by: Leonieke Aalders via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Leonieke Aalders via Wikimedia Commons

10. Oradour-Sur-Glane, France

This small village in western France is memorialized as the site of one of the largest Nazi massacres on French soil. On June 10, 1944 SS officers stormed the village and killed the vast majority of residents, some 642 men, women and children, before largely destroying the area. Though officially rebuilt a few km north, the French government ordered the original site to be untouched and to stand testament to the horrors committed there. Visitors can walk through the ruins of the ghost town and pay their respects at the onsite memorial.

Oradour-Sur-Glane, France

9. Umschlagplatz, Warsaw, Poland

During German occupation, the German-named Umschlagplatz (“reloading point”) was the Square in Warsaw used to round up Polish Jews and organize their deportation from the Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp. People waited in hordes for hours until enough detainees were rounded up to fill the train cars, with any signs of resistance resulting in instant death. Today, the site of the former Square is home to a memorial constructed in the image of train cars, erected to pay tribute to the countless lives doomed (and lost) on these very premises.

Dariusz Leszczynski / Shutterstock.com
Dariusz Leszczynski / Shutterstock.com

8. Warsaw Ghetto, Poland

In the beautiful Polish city of Warsaw, there still stands a testament to the largest and deadliest Nazi-created Ghetto in Europe. By the deadline of October 15, 1940, the city’s large Jewish population was forcibly required to move into an 18 km area which enclosed 73 of the city’s 1800 streets, and was divided into the “small” and “large” ghettos linked by a wooden bridge. At highest capacity, the Ghetto housed about 380,000 people, translating to about eight residents per room. Today, the site is commemorated by “The Footbridge of Memory” which denotes the location of the original bridge between the two Ghettos, several monument and memorials. The area also still contains chunks of the original separating wall as well as decrepit residential buildings which have stood untouched for the past seven decades.

Anastasia Petrova / Shutterstock.com
Anastasia Petrova / Shutterstock.com

7. The Wolf’s Lair, Poland

This major complex hidden among a dense Masurian forest was Hitler’s first headquarters on the Eastern Front, and became his most frequently inhabited hideout (he spent about half the war here). Originally built for the impending invasion of the Soviet Union, the property became a sort of small town consisting of shelters, barracks, two airfields as well as a power and rail station. Despite being heavily reinforced and highly secure, this was also the site of the infamous July 1944 assassination attempt of Hitler by Claus Von Stauffenberg. The premises were vacated and destroyed by German officials in January of 1945 and remained untouched by the Polish Government until the fall of Communism. Today, the site is in ruins but has become a popular tourist attraction with a handful of hotels and restaurants now available in the remote area.

Wolf's Lair, Poland

6. Bletchley Park, England

Featured in the film “The Imitation Game,” Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire was Britain’s central site for code breaking during the Second World War. As the location of the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), it became the largest and most successful institution in penetrating secret Axis communications, most famously of the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers. Analysis now suggests that the efforts conducted on these premises shortened the war by about 2 years, and the school is now an educational and historic attraction commemorating the accomplishments of the institution.

Photo by: Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Magnus Manske via Wikimedia Commons

5. Fuhrerbunker, Berlin

Now largely destroyed, this bunker was located under the former Reich Chancellery building in the heart of the city, and is the site where Hitler spent the last few weeks of the war, married Eva Braun and committed suicide in April of 1945. Located 11.5 feet below ground level, the bunker was a system of 30 small rooms protected by 13 foot thick concrete walls with an exit point in the Reich Chancellery gardens. Today, the site looks inconspicuous enough as a quiet residential neighborhood, and is largely unmarked save the small plaque and information board that denotes the location and provides a schematic diagram of the bunker.

Photo by: Cezary p at pl. via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Cezary p at pl. via Wikimedia Commons

4. Cabinet War Rooms, England

Partially restored and opened as a museum to the public in 1985, the Cabinet War Rooms were originally a secret complex under the basement of the Treasury. The bomb blitz of December 1940 forced the complex to be reinforced as a bomb bunker, becoming the main strategic headquarters for the War Cabinet (consisting of Prime Minister Churchill and several Conservative and Labor Party ministers). Today visitors can descend below the streets of Westminster and check out the various rooms of the complex as they would have existed during the war, and of especial significance, the Map Room, which remains exactly as it was when the premises were closed and vacated in August of 1945.

Cabinet War Rooms, England

3. Auschwitz- Birkenau, Poland

Originally built in 1940 as a detention center for political prisoners, Auschwitz-Birkenau became the Nazi’s most gruesome legacy—the largest death camp and the primary site for the “Final Solution.” Located on the site of a former military base just outside of Krakow, Poland, the complex was regarded as the ideal location to carry out Nazi atrocities because of its proximity to the rail lines used to transport prisoners. Liberated on January 27, 1945 by the Soviet Army, estimates suggest that upwards of 1.1 million deaths were carried out on the property. Today, Auschwitz is a harrowing museum complex not for the faint of heart. While undeniably an important site to see, visitors are urged to check out the museum website (http://visit.auschwitz.org/ ) to familiarize themselves with the rules, entry pass guidelines and capacity restrictions before their visit.

Auschwitz Birkenau, Berlin

2. Musee de la Reddition, France

This red brick schoolhouse just northwest of the Reims train station is the historic site where, in the early morning of May 7, 1945 high officers from the German army met with officers of the Allied forces and signed the declaration of unconditional surrender, ending the second world war in Europe. Now known as the Lycee Roosevelt, the property was being used as the headquarters of Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the room where the signature took place, the map room, remains perfectly preserved behind a glass panel and comprises the museum now called the Musee de la Reddition.

Photo by: Gerald Garitan via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Gerald Garitan via Wikimedia Commons

1. Normandy, France

It is on this stretch of beaches on the Normandy coast where the infamous D-Day Landings of June 6, 1944 took place, changing the course of the war to favor the Allies. The five beaches—Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah—were where the forces of the French, British, Canadian and American armies successfully landed and commenced an operation that changed the tide of WWII in Europe. Today, visitors can pay their respects to the sacrifices made by these troops at the various memorials found on the beaches, at the military cemeteries of each army and learn more about the operation and strategy at the various museums and information centers.

Normandy, France

Like this? Check out 10 Significant World War II Sites to Visit in Germany

The 15 Best Airports For a Layover

Passengers who fly a lot often or even just once in a while dread having a layover in a strange airport within a strange city. But flyers need not worry if they are flying through one of these remarkable airports. Some of these airports are futuristic, others are friendly and many of them offer extraordinary amenities and close access to visit cities. What they all offer is a unique and easy way to enjoy a short or long layover, with free showers, movie theaters and even a full 9-hole golf course. Discover the best of the best in airports around the world for layovers.

15. Keflavík International Airport, Iceland

This airport is modern, compact and recently went through a renovation that makes it easier to navigate and has added many shops and dining options that please passengers who are stuck here. Like most places in Iceland the airport offers free WiFi, a welcome amenity to those travelers from many of the US airports that charge. But perhaps the best part about having a layover here is the location. Located just half an hour from the famous Blue Lagoon, passengers on a layover here will have the chance to leave the airport and soak their troubles away in the warm, geothermal waters. Spread across the landscape of black lava mounds, visitors can soak in the 100-degree water for a few hours before returning back via shuttle, taxi or bus. This is one airport you will want to seek out for a long layover and take advantage of this awesome experience.

Photo by: Keflavik International Airport
Photo by: Keflavik International Airport

14. Helsinki International Airport, Finland

Despite this being a relatively small airport, the Helsinki airport offers up plenty of uncrowded space, amenities and a calming presence. It is one of the most relaxing airports on this list and travelers can experience the Finnish culture through the cinema area that features Finish films and large sculptures that adorn the terminal. For avid readers there is a book exchange that features a cozy nook where you can get lost for hours reading and swapping titles. A scenic terrace lets visitors watch the incoming and outgoing planes during the summer months. The best part about this airport may be the free relaxation area that features foldable beds, comfy chairs and plugs for all of your electronics. Plenty of shopping and authentic dining options, as well as the option to leave the airport and tour the city makes this airport an excellent layover destination.

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

13. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Japan

There is lots to do if you are stuck in the Tokyo airport on a layover and being only 9 miles from the downtown area gives passengers plenty of options. Free WiFi, a barber, hair salon, oxygen bar, health clinic and duty free shops are all scattered throughout the terminals for passenger convenience. Sleeping here on a layover can also be quite pleasant. The seats and benches are comfortable, the lights are dimmed and there are no loud announcements over the speakers. The huge panoramic terrace on the roof offers amazing views of the planes landing and taking off. Lounges can be assessed for as little as $8 US and offer comfortable seats, electrical outlets, refreshments and showers. Many layover passengers enjoy these amenities without having to shell out big bucks.

cowardlion / Shutterstock.com
cowardlion / Shutterstock.com

12. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia

This airport may not be the most modern on the list but the rain forest-like feel coupled with free WiFi, plenty of dining options and the friendliness of the Malaysian people makes it one of the best airports to have a layover. The upper level of the airport boasts four different areas where passengers can curl up and watch TV. In the middle of the terminal is a small tropical garden and on the 5th level is an area just for children, complete with activities and slides. If you are looking to leave the airport and experience the city you will need about a six to seven hour layover. The KLIA express train takes you right into the capitol in just thirty minutes. Whether you want to sit and enjoy the tropical feel of the airport with its free WiFi and showers or venture out into the city; this is a great airport to have a layover.

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

11. San Francisco International Airport, California, USA

It is the only airport located in the United States to make this list and travelers who spend a layover here will be pleasantly surprised by the amenities offered throughout. Standard amenities range from free WiFi, rapid charging stations, XpressSpas offering massages, facials, manicures/pedicures, etc and art exhibits spread throughout. The Aviation Museum and Library is open to the public and free admission makes this a great place to kill some time. For those with little ones, hanging out at the airport has never been easier with different kids play areas and a scavenger hunt with prizes. Free yoga rooms, relaxation rooms and hydration stations are offered throughout. Eating and drinking at the airport is truly a culinary experience with an emphasis on locally crafted food, beer and wine. If you do want to leave the airport during your layover, the city center is a quick 25 minute ride away on the train.

Kenishirotie / Shutterstock.com
Kenishirotie / Shutterstock.com

10. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taiwan

For those passengers who face a layover at the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport, there is an abundance of free activities and entertaining things to do while you wait, beginning with free hot showers. Large couches and comfortable seating areas allow for passengers to relax and even catch a sleep while they wait for their next flight. Exploring the terminals is a great way to pass the time here as this airport offers 30 plus themed lounges ranging from Hello Kitty to a sports themed lounge. Cultural art galleries are scattered throughout as well as numerous kids’ areas that feature gaming stations. The free library offers books, tablets, computers and e-books, as well as mobile charging stations and comfortable seating. There are free massage chairs, numerous prayer rooms and cloud-based reading areas where comfortable chairs and computers are provided. One thing for sure, you won’t need a reason to leave this airport on your layover.

outcast85 / Shutterstock.com
outcast85 / Shutterstock.com

9. Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver, Canada

This International airport is home to First Nations art, 5,000 marine animals and a nature inspired creek that runs through it; amongst many more things. If you are going to have a layover in Canada, this would be the place to do it. One of the most impressive ways to spend time in this airport is to head to the international terminal where an 114,000 liter aquarium sits as a permanent exhibit. A jellyfish aquarium also sits up on the fourth floor. There is no shortage of comfortable seating at this airport, rows of chairs complete with headrests and footrests are at each gate as well as removable cushioned chairs with no armrests, letting passengers create mini sleeping areas. Mini TV watching stations are available, complete with three different channels, comfortable theater style chairs and a kid’s play area nearby. Although the city is just a short train trip away, you may find yourself wanting to stay here and explore this awesome airport.

 Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

8. London Heathrow

It’s one of the busiest airports in the world and provides a ton of dining, shopping and entertainment venues to keep passengers occupied during a layover. It’s one of the only airports in the world that offers personal shoppers to the passengers to help pick out gifts, travel wardrobes, etc. Shoppers will delight in duty free stores and high end retail like Burberry. There’s also something for foodies who will delight in over 100 restaurants throughout the terminals. Passengers can wander through the cultural exhibition showcasing British sculptors, painters, and photographers. Sleeping isn’t great at this airport as it is busy, but there is so many nooks and crannies to discover throughout the huge terminals so patience in finding a place to snooze is a must. If you feel like leaving the airport, the city is only about 15 miles away and can easily be accessed through underground, train or taxi.

Milosz_M / Shutterstock.com
Milosz_M / Shutterstock.com

7. Dubai International Airport, Dubai

Like everything else in Dubai, this airport is over the top, extravagant and truly unforgettable. This is one airport where having a layover is actually an incredible experience. Shopaholics will go crazy for the world’s largest duty-free shop at 58,000 square feet and other high-end shops. Passengers can walk through open-air gardens complete with mist machines or choose to use the G-Force gym; open 24/7, with a pool and showers. The immaculate inside of the airport offers such things as shopping stands where you can purchase actual gold bars. If you are looking to sleep, the Dubai airport offers Snoozecubes; soundproof units with a bed, touch screen TV and music for a minimal price available by the hour. This airport is expanding at a rapid rate and expects to be able to handle 90 million passengers by 2018, which means even more amazing amenities coming here.

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

6. Munich International Airport, Germany

You won’t have any problems finding a beer in this airport, which is often the perfect way to pass some time during a layover. Everyone heads to Airbräu, a Bavarian-style tavern complete with its own beer garden, live music and on-site brewery, where beer enthusiasts can watch the brewmaster in action. Passengers will find free showers, a beautiful courtyard that connects the terminals and plenty of relaxation centers with reclining seats and electrical outlets. The visitor’s park is truly an amazing feature of this airport and offers free showings of aviation movies, mini-golf, a viewing platform and historical aircrafts. Passengers on a layover should head to terminal two which features ultra-modern touches such as nap pods complete with iPhone and USB ports. There is free coffee, tea and hot chocolate throughout, a skating rink in the winter months and access to free WiFi makes Munich the perfect layover airport.

Luisa Fumi / Shutterstock.com
Luisa Fumi / Shutterstock.com

5. Zurich Airport, Switzerland

An extensive renovation to this airport back in 2011 improved this already well-liked airport with the likes of two rooftop terraces with observation points and an awesome kids area complete with a mini-plane and tower to explore. There are plenty of ways to rest and freshen up in this airport. Free showers are available along with plenty of communal rest areas with comfy reclining chairs. If you are looking for a little more privacy, simple furnished rooms are available to rent that come complete with beds, TV and an individual wash basin. Plenty of duty-free shops and restaurants line this airport, including ones with the famous Swiss chocolate. For those looking to get a little exercise between flights, in-line skates and bikes are available to rent right from the airport.

MR. INTERIOR / Shutterstock.com
MR. INTERIOR / Shutterstock.com

4. Amsterdam Schiphol, The Netherlands

This one terminal airport has been in the same location for 100 years and pleasing passengers from the get go. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Museum is housed here and offers free admission, letting passengers take in the permanent and temporary art exhibits by Dutch artists. The world’s first airport library also provides a great way for passengers to pass the time and offers e-books and print books in 29 different languages. Having a layover here means access to over 75 shops and many dining options such as the Bubbles Seafood & Wine Bar where you can dine around a saltwater aquarium with a glass of champagne and fresh seafood. For those travelers looking to relax there is free WiFi, numerous spas and showers. Massage chairs, casinos and numerous lounges round out this airport experience.

Bokstaz / Shutterstock.com
Bokstaz / Shutterstock.com

3. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong

This futuristic airport offers endless entertainment for passengers stuck on layovers here. The endless charging stations, business centers and beautiful lounges will suit the business travelers, but the guests who really benefit from having a layover here are those looking to have some fun between flights. The outdoor nine-hole golf course is open 24/7 to passengers looking to squeeze in a round or two. The world’s first airport IMAX Theater shows both 2D and 3D films and sports lover can head up to the iSports simulator for car racing, basketball and soccer. High end shops and Michelin star restaurants are located throughout the airport. The Aviation Discovery Centre which tracks aviation history in Hong Kong through themed exhibits and attractions including the SkyDeck, and Cockpit Simulator keep passengers occupied throughout flight times.

TungCheung / Shutterstock.com
TungCheung / Shutterstock.com

2. Incheon International Airport, South Korea

This airport is a favorite among travelers, especially among the ones who get stuck here for a few hours. There are a ton of free amenities that will make weary travelers happy including WiFi, use of laptops and free showers. More importantly though this airport offers lots of fun for layover passengers including two movie theaters playing Korean and Hollywood Hits, an ice skating rink and an 18-hole putting course. The culture center offers experiences such as learning traditional Korean paper handicraft and taking in harp performances. There are seven gardens throughout the airport that are perfect for the ultimate relaxation, or hit up the spa and sauna. If passengers want to leave the airport there are many tours that leave directly from it and take visitors to temples, historic sites and newer attractions. Did we mention that this airport offers over 90 different duty free shops and looks more like a sparkling clean mall, rather than an airport?

Tanjala Gica / Shutterstock.com
Tanjala Gica / Shutterstock.com

1. Changi International Airport, Singapore

This airport is truly the best in the world and there is nowhere else in the world that you should want to have a layover than here. The Changi Airport in Singapore has won over 400 awards and continues to add to its impressive list of features. For passengers who are stuck here on a layover, there are hundreds of things to discover. Take a walk through one of five gardens, including the live butterfly garden boasting more than a 1000 butterflies. Take a ride down the 40-foot swirling slide, refresh in the rooftop Balinese-themed swimming or catch a free flick at the movie theater. Entertainment areas featuring Xbox, Playstations and other electronics are scattered throughout as well as art sculptures and waterfalls. Business travelers will be happy with the 200 iPad-wielding agents, hundreds of free Internet terminals, plus airport-wide free WiFi and hundreds of USB ports and power sockets.

joyfull / Shutterstock.com
joyfull / Shutterstock.com

The 10 Worst Airline Reward Programs

Not all airline reward programs are created equal and beyond the frustrations of not being able to book a seat with your miles or points are outrageous taxes and fee, unfriendly websites and the inability to ever earn enough miles/points to redeem them for a flight. Looking at some of the major airlines around the world it is clear that some of the recent changes in reward programs have not actually been for the better and that some longtime reward programs are in desperate need of a refresh. Here are 10 of the worst airline reward programs around the world.

10. Emirates (Skywards)

Emirates is one of the major airlines that does not belong to an alliance, thus reducing the opportunity to earn and spend miles with partner airlines. They deal with two different kind of miles; Skyward miles that you can actually use and tier miles that are only responsible for upping your status in the reward program. It is hard to figure out how these reward miles actually work as currently Emirates does not publish an award chart, only a mileage calculator. To make things even more complicated they have two types of award fares, saver and flex. It is best to do some research before going for the saver fare (the fare that uses less miles) as it will cost you a lot to make changes, use a ridiculous amount of miles for a business class ticket and have high fuel surcharges. Overall this is just one confusing miles program.

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com
Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

9. American (AAdvantage)

With American and US Airways merging this past year it was interesting to see what was going to happen with the rewards program. Certainly not the worst of programs out there, the reason it ends up on this list is a combination of a few factors. To start off, booking a seat with rewards miles is still increasingly hard to do, though it does show signs of improvement. Although flights can be booked on blackout dates with certain miles, it costs the member a ton of miles and there are usually no seats. They also love to charge passengers for any changes on mile tickets. Knowing how many miles you are earning as you fly becomes confusing when you look at the many award charts available and there are limits in place for how many miles are allowed to be earned on each flight.

Vacclav / Shutterstock.com
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

8. LAN (LANPASS)

This rewards program deals in kilometers and has about four million members that are based primarily in South America. Don’t let the high membership number fool you though; this airline program isn’t easy to use. Understanding how many km’s you earn via the website is ultra confusing, as the number of km’s varies by country, city and continent. Certain flights with LAN don’t earn you any km’s and if you book the basic fare prices it can take decades to earn enough points to fly for free. An expiration date of 36 months on km’s, fees to book by phone and cancellation fees charged in km’s versus money make this program one of the worst. Spending the miles isn’t easy either as LAN is known to have a low availability of seats for reward users. Unless you plan on flying A LOT; this reward program isn’t for you.

Paulo Afonso / Shutterstock.com
Paulo Afonso / Shutterstock.com

7. United (Mileage Plus)

United has always had loyal passengers and they love to use its reward system that is categorized into basic membership or premier, and then premier is separated into four different levels. But just because they have loyal membership doesn’t mean that this rewards program benefits most passengers. United recently switched to a revenue-based frequent flyer program, which means the more money you spend the more miles you earn. This is great for premier members who fly first class and business class but not so great for the economy passengers or those who like to book when flights go on sale. This rewards program came under scrutiny back in early 2014 when it was through a huge devaluation that angered many loyal customers. There are also a lot of rules to sort through with Mileageplus including rules about fees, transfers and expiration which makes it confusing for a lot of members.

Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com
Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com

6. Air China (Phoenix Miles)

It boasts that it has the largest membership of any rewards program in China but we would be surprised if these members were happy about how this program works. To start off, it is ridiculously hard to understand their awards charts which operate in kilometers and have not been updated in the past year; therefore it is unsure if these numbers are valid. Although this reward program gets bonus points for having a family program which allows family members to share points, once you read the fine print it becomes clear that sharing points isn’t as easy as one thinks. Besides the fact that you can only transfer once a year, and only up to a certain number of points, if someone happens to lose their card; it’s going to cost you up to 800 km. Add in the unavailability of reward seats and this program needs some serious upgrading.

Tupungato / Shutterstock.com
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

5. Asia Miles

With more than seven million members and a slew of airline partners and travel and lifestyle partners, one might be surprised to see this program on the list. It does in fact come down to a few simple things. One of the most sought after items that people use reward programs for are free flights and this is where Asia Miles fails. Cathay Pacific dropped a whopping 15 points in a study done by the Wall Street Journal in terms of seat availability for reward users bringing them to just 66%. What this means is that they are reducing the number of seats that are available for purchase for rewards and thus making it harder for members to redeem miles. Another point to consider is that members who fly in economy don’t often earn any miles for their flights and cheaper fares are worth nothing.

Eric Hui / Shutterstock.com
Eric Hui / Shutterstock.com

4. Aer Lingus (Gold Circle Club)

What used to be a low cost carrier to get passengers across the pond has now morphed into a global entity that focuses on great service and value. The rewards program needs a serious upgrade though, especially if it wants to connect with a market that only flies once or twice a year. Currently one has to earn their way into this rewards program, by earning a total of 2,400 points within one calendar year. This points system doesn’t work on price or distance flown; instead it offers a fixed number of points based on the destination and cabin. For example an economy flight to the USA will earn you 300 points, thus making it very hard to accrue the points even needed to get into this elite club. There is no cash plus points option when you redeem, the fuel surcharges are high and truthfully this rewards program needs a refresh immediately.

Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com
Lukas Rebec / Shutterstock.com

3. Turkish Airlines (Miles&Smiles)

This is another airline that plummeted in terms of seat availability for reward members according to the Wall Street Journal. Falling 22.1 points and coming in with a 63.6% seat availability, it seems that although this program revamped itself in 2014, there is now less opportunity to redeem miles for flights. With the revamp the passengers that fly economy took a hard hit as instead of earning 100% of the miles they now earn 25%. Another complaint this reward program faces is the three year expiration on miles. While passengers who fly a lot in business class may benefit from this rewards program, everyone else will not and it is well worth exploring other options.

Ivica Drusany / Shutterstock.com
Ivica Drusany / Shutterstock.com

2. Spirit (Free Spirit)

Spirit airlines offers a reward program that is meant to benefit people who fly often domestically in the United States and/or to the Caribbean or Latin America. Although members earn miles every time they take a Spirit flight, it is hard to keep on earning them unless you are flying every three months. That is because these miles expire after just three months of inactivity. Spirit justifies this by offering members a credit card, with a $59 annual fee. Make sure you are using that MasterCard at least once a month though or your miles will expire. Calling to make a reservation through the call centre will cost you an additional $25 when you want to use your miles and you must book far in advance to avoid an additional service charge.  This reward program also slaps members with a $110 fee if they need to modify or cancel their flight they booked with miles.

Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.com
Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.com

1. Delta (SkyMiles)

Delta SkyMiles is another rewards program that recently switched to the revenue-based frequent flyer program and just like United, took a lot of backlash for this system. This airline is already known for making very few cheaper seats available for reward members and instead pushes them to higher level seating that cost many more miles. Loyal business members may be benefitting more from spending more money but the new changes also made things harder for them. SkyClub fees went up, international first class awards are blocked on partner airlines and there is a cap on how many miles you can earn on each flight. SkyMiles has been fighting for years to better its reputation that has been largely based on seat availability for reward members and it seems they are moving in a backwards direction.

Erasmus Wolff / Shutterstock.com
Erasmus Wolff / Shutterstock.com